Friday, 5 March, 2021

Migrant workers need decent work regime


Sampada Anuranjanee khatiwada

In Nepalese context, poverty is regarded as a significant cause behind unemployment. Foreign employment has been the "go to" for majority of Nepalese as to overcome their economic and professional hardships.

Nepalese workers emigrate, as foreign employment helps them escape from economic vulnerabilities and offer greater autonomy and empowerment.
Also, sending countries have benefitted from higher inflows of remittances and changes in societal and family relations. Migration provides immense opportunity and benefits to migrants, host countries and countries of origin.

In the past consecutive fiscal years 2015/16 and 2016/17, the Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE) issued 786,564 permits for foreign employment to over 100 destination countries. According to the DoFE, Nepalese citizen can get work permits for nearly 170 countries.
As per a status report on Nepalese Labour Migration, published by The Asia Foundation, from 2008 to 2017, Nepal has issued about 3.5 million labor permits to migrant workers, predominantly to Malaysia and nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

Also, in the last fiscal year alone, Nepal received remittance worth NPR 699 billion (USD 6.56 billion) from its citizens employed overseas, more than one-quarter of national GDP, the fourth-highest proportion in the world.
Even though foreign employment always seems like a piece of cake to earn money and remittance, tables might turn when it isn’t regulated, facilitated and properly monitored by the concerned authorities and the government.

While foreign employment has been the "go-to" for Nepalese youth, several risks are associated with it.
Trafficking and forced labour stands as major risks in emigration for employment. Many of Nepalese migrant workers emigrate through various means other than regular, legitimate channel. The undocumented and irregular migrants have become the source of vulnerability and exploitation.

Also, recruitment malpractices, fraudulent jobs, debt bondage, sexual and physical harassment, absence of occupational health and safety standards, suicide, death, hazardous jobs and non-payment of wages are the major issues that underlay in foreign employment.

For an instance, as per the report of The Asia Foundation, as many as 1,400 Nepali workers have lost their lives while constructing the 2022 FIFA World Cup football stadium in Qatar.
Also, we, time and again get to hear many cases of illegal and fraudulent channeling of migrant workers.

In a case of Tulshi Prasad Giri vs GON (071-CR-0570) so decided on 2072, Tulshi Prasad Giri had taken a certain amount with the worker to send the latter to Afghanistan for foreign employment.
As Giri didn’t send the worker abroad even after taking money, he was sentenced to imprisonment for one year and eight months, with a fine of Rs. 1, 66,000.
It is evident that with the increasing number of Nepalese migrant workers, their exploitation and other risks have been increasing. In order to overcome the issues concerning vulnerability of the migrant workers, proper regulation and scrutiny must be enforced by the government.

Until now, Nepal has ratified 11 international conventions to facilitate fair and decent labour practices. Also, Nepal is the member of International Labour Organization (ILO).
Foreign Employment Act 2007, Foreign Employment Regulation 2008, Foreign Employment Policy 2012, Peace and Friendship Treaty 1950 established between Nepal and India, Human Trafficking and Transportation (Control) Act 2064 are the foreign employment legislations, which regulates foreign employment and protects rights of Nepalese working overseas.

Over the past three decades, the Nepalese policies in the area of labour migration have developed majorly in four aspects, which are, growing restrictiveness and selectiveness in the admission of labour migrants in developed countries, increasing host countries, recognising the rights of migrant workers and protection of their families and adoption of regional agreements on free movement.
Even though the legislative measures adopted by Nepal seems to be on progressive side when it comes to protection of the rights of migrant workers, creation of foreign employment opportunities, preventing workers' trafficking and exploitation, much more is yet to be done as to ensure sustainable foreign employment trend and opportunities.

Government needs to address all the critical concerns of sustainable foreign employment including protection of migrants and promotion of employment condition; optimization of benefits of migration through expansion of employment windows and efficient service delivery, interstate and inter-stakeholder cooperation and collaboration and knowledge management for better utilisation of international labour market dynamics.

Also, the government should opt for introducing strategic interventions to facilitate foreign employment such as policy development and legislative reforms, pursuing bilateral and regional collaboration with the host countries as to ensure better social protection and decent employment regime for Nepalese migrant workers.
Further, coordination between professional and accountable recruiting agents, meaningful participation of migrants, recruiting agencies and the civil society in policy making and law enforcement enhances the sustainability could also help in overcoming the problems associated with foreign employment.

Introducing capable diplomacy and institutional mechanism to coordinate, facilitate, monitor and supervise the whole process of migration could also facilitate in establishing a sustained foreign employment.
All in all, creation of job opportunities within the nation is significant to combat the brain-drain amongst the Nepalese youths.

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